Iron Wind Metals Trip, November 2018

Iron Wind Metals has had a factory in Cincinnati for a long time, and a couple of years ago they move to a new location. I went to visit the "new" IWM factory for the first time the other day. IWM President Mike Noe was gracious enough to give me the run of the place, and with his permission I took some photos that I'd like to share. I started with a photo of some pretty cool vintage artwork in the front office Like this Stalker painting.

My main interest is Battletech, but IWM (and Ral Partha before them) also does fantasy minis and some other gaming lines. The result is they produce a whole lot of different things, and so there are racks upon racks of molds for these minis. Each one of the black discs you see below is a Vulcanized rubber mold for miniatures.

The next part is where is gets fascinating to me. The metal comes in ingots (see a pallet of them, below left), and gets melted down in a furnace. As an aside, IWM can take your leftover sprues for recycling as well. Once the metal is a liquid, it can be poured into the mold in a spin casting machine (below right, with worker). Note that this particular spin caster is called Blue Oyster Cult, which could not be more epic. Once cooled back to solid form, the new mini (or in most cases, parts of a mini) is removed from the mold. It's still pretty hot to the touch, and you'd get a nice blister if you were to pick it up at this point.

The completed minis are put in a bin, which then goes onto a shelf next to bins for the related pieces sorted by product number. This is my favorite place... it's a wonderland of more awesome miniatures than I could paint in a lifetime. The figure below shows the view down a single aisle of Battletech minis (there were multiple aisles like this, plus others with fantasy minis, etc.). Each bin you see has a sprue of parts. One-piece minis only need one bin, but a complicated multi-piece mini might need 4 or more bins. A fun find back by some of the aisles of bits is the little factory library. There's a pretty eclectic selection, but with a leaning towards 80s sci-fi.

Next is the packing station, where components are sealed in blister packs that can then be shipped to retailers. I didn't take a picture, but there are many aisles of ready-to-ship blister packs in the warehouse as well. You can buy minis that way, but if you show up at the factory in person they'll also let you buy minis by weight which will save you some money. Even so, I still managed to buy three digits worth of stuff. Anyway, the whole trip was a good time and I would recommend it to any miniatures gaming enthusiast in driving distance of Cincinnati.